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Next-generation PACs and PLCs share programming tools

05 March, 2015

Mitsubishi Electric has released new generations of two of its key controls ranges – Melsec iQ-R programmable automation controllers (PACs) and iQ-F compact PLCs. While they address different segments of the machine control, process control and automation markets, they share the same programming environment with other iQ models and are said to offer an improved user experience.

The new controllers, which were previewed at the 2013 SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, are now reaching the market. The iQ-R PAC’s system bus is 40 times faster than the previous generation, while Mitsubishi claims that the iQ-F is the fastest compact PLC on the market, taking just 34ns to process an instruction – half the time of some of its rivals.

The iQ-R has been designed to meet the needs of industry 4.0. Mitsubishi says that it will cut development, maintenance and operating costs significantly. Its improved processing performance will deliver increased security and safety, and reduced downtime.

Its security functions include a security hardware key, an IP-based access filter and user authentication, all designed to protect against cyber-attacks.

Improved debugging and error-recovery functions – including the ability to store data from before an event – will help to cut commissioning and maintenance work and associated costs. The functions provided include the creation of an operating history as well as error and event logging.

An embedded database stores recipe, batch or other process data in a user-friendly format, turning vast amounts of data into useful information for production, preventative maintenance, and so on.

Standard and safety controls can be integrated in one rack and it is also possible to connect to various open networks, including CC-Link and CC-Link IE Field.

The iQ-R is backwards-compatible with earlier Melsec Q controllers, both from a software and hardware point-of-view, allowing smooth migration, with the possibility of re-using old modules.

The Melsec iQ-F series compact PLCs build on the legacy of Mitsubishi’s market-leading FX platform and broaden the range of available applications, offering built-in functions that were previously only available as add-ons or did not exist at all in this category of PLCs.

The first model in the iQ-F series, the FX5U, offers a 64k step memory, a built-in Ethernet port, analogue I/O, data-logging, position control, security, communications and networking. It provides functions – such as motion control, data logging and sophisticated security – that have previously been available only on larger PLCs.

For example, a simple four-axis motion module with 200kHz inputs offers sophisticated motion control functions such as torque control and circular interpolation in an easy-to-use format, making it suitable for applications such as food and beverage packaging.

A built-in RS-485 port with dedicated drives communications can be used to control up to 16 Mitsubishi inverters, and to collect data such as power consumption. The Ethernet port can be used for programming, remote access, and peer-to-peer communications with HMIs and other PLCs.

Mitsubishi's iQ-R PAC system has been designed to meet the needs of Industry 4.0

To meet the needs of Industry 4.0, the FX5U offers data-logging functions, with data ranging from energy consumption to product throughput being captured on a standard SD card (up to 4GB) for further analysis.

Security features protect both the developer’s intellectual property and the final installation. Each PLC can have a security key that allows users to manage access to both software and hardware.

These functions are combined with a processing speed of 34ns per instruction (twice as fast as some rival PLCs) and a system bus speed 150 times faster than previous-generation FX PLCs. Mitsubishi says that the FX5U can be used in many applications that would previously have needed much larger and more costly PLCs.

In the UK, Mitsubishi currently holds about 30% of the compact PLC market. Hugh Tasker, the company’s product manager for the FX5U, hopes that the new-generation PLC will take this market share above 40% within two years.

The FX5U is the first PLC to be released in the iQ-F series, which will be expanded over the coming years to include other compact PLCs and peripherals.

The iQ-R and iQ-F controllers are both programmed using the new GX Works3 software, which provides an intuitive, graphical, structured programming environment. Programming options including dynamic labels, parameterisation instead of programming, and the automatic creation of hardware function blocks and visual function blocks, including HMI templates. Drag-and-drop hardware and software configuration is claimed to cut configuration times by more than 60%, while the intuitive programming is said to reduce development costs and development errors. GX Works3 is part of Mitsubishi’s iQ Works integrated engineering environment.

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